The Times They Are A Changin’

I once asked the late Wilfred Gillis what he thought of Ashley MacIsaac’s rendition of the lovely Irish folk tune “Sleepy Maggie”. Gillis was a fiddle player who learned jigs and reels from his father that were as pure then as the day they left the Morar area of Scotland in 1790, so I was interested in his response to this innovative new talent.

“Wonderful” was his reply, adding that we need to respect the musicians and music of old, but play for the people of today. “Ashley is an excellent, exciting musician and he does both well. More importantly, he is allowing his Celtic music to evolve,” Gillis said.

Like other cultures, the Celtic identity is best reflected in our arts. And that identity is a living force. It’s simultaneously old and new. It’s vibrant and all around us, appealing to people of all ages. And it is changing as young artists blend the traditional with new forms of creativity – allowing our Celtivity to evolve.

Today, musical groups like Angus Mohr, Clannad, and Celtic Thunder, along with dancers like Michael Flatley and Shawn Silver, are taking Celtic culture – and our identity – in new and exciting directions. By way of example, and due in large part to the popularity of Riverdance, Celtic dance is now taught in over 80 countries around the globe.

Last month, the largest Celtic festival in the world saw performers and spectators gather in Brittany, France. Highland dancing competitions are now held in such faraway places as Moscow, and CeltFest Cuba has become a yearly event in the heat of Havana. This October, Cape Breton will again host Celtic Colours, a world-class event that attracts international artists and visitors.

Individually, artists from the most unlikely places are imbuing Celtic culture with fresh creativity. Uzbekistan-born fiddler Keyreel Fidléir Raskolenko is taking Celtic music to new places – literally – and becoming a musical trend-setter in Russia, where he merges his classical training and a passion for Cape Breton jigs and reels into a unique hybrid. Carolina Mariano is a guitar player from Brazil, who combines Celtic melodies and South American rhythms.

The cover of this issue features another innovative artist. Dancer Joel Hanna from Vancouver, Canada, combines traditional Irish dancing with contemporary dance and modern martial arts, reflecting, perhaps, his unusual heritage; his father is Irish and his mother is from the Philippines. To borrow a well-worn phrase from Bob Dylan, The “times they are a changin’.

And much of this resurgence in things Celtic is a result of e-publishing and social media, which allows us to instantly connect with Celts, and others, around the world. At Celtic Life International we look forward to bringing you new Celtic faces from all parts of the globe. ~ Marcie Macquarrie, publisher